I knew race judges had some leeway. I’ve seen many times where the race judges have adjusted a stage cut off time in order to allow a rather large grupetto to continue racing. But is this a little too much discretion?
I’m a fan of Levi Leipheimer however I just don’t feel good about the current home field advantage he is enjoying. I thought the UCI decision moving out the “crash” rule from 1 to 3kilometers was a good decision. This keeps the GC contenders from having to mix it up with the sprinters during the hectic last few kilometers of a race. Ever since the famous “Red Train” of Mario Cipollini redefined sprinting lead outs, it became imperative that the last three kilometers became protected.
In yesterday’s stage of the Tour of California, a crash happened ten kilometers from the finish. The college of commisaires stepped in fifteen minutes after the race finished, announcing they were extending the UCI’s three kilometer”crash” rule to where the crash occurred. My guess is that since the finish was three circuits around downtown Santa Rosa this warranted this adjustment. Criteriums are very popular in the US so a (crit inspired) circuit finish is relatively unique to ProTour riders in a major stage race. This may be the reason for bending the rule.
Either way when a crash happens to the race leader in his home town and the rule bending allows him to keep his lead, something does not sit right. Ask George Hincapie who lost his lead in the ENECO Tour to the man who took him down in the final 100 meters of the final stage.
Crashes are part of the game. Winning a stage race is a combination of preparation and luck. Let’s keep it that way.
Additional note: I’ve had a couple of emails and one comment on how Race judges are chosen and who they are. This link from the UCI should provide more information.